PARIS (May 18, 1:30 p.m. ET) — Environmental concerns and an overwhelming desire to be first with composite solutions were apparent at the JEC Europe 2012 show. European Plastics News visited the Paris exhibition in March and reports on emerging trends in the sector.
Traditionally, automotive and construction have been the main end markets driving innovation in composites. At this year's JEC Europe show, however, many composites suppliers were pursuing the material's enormous growth in wind turbines and in the increasing popularity of biocomposites.
The importance of wind farms goes hand-in-hand with a focus on sustainability, with many suppliers making it clear that being green is good for shareholders as well as the planet.
Previously, environmental pressures generated extra work and costs for users of composites by forcing them to remove substances that harm the environment. But some suppliers have now launched products and developed processes that help the environment and also solve technical problems.
3B Fibreglass was one of many companies showing new solutions for the wind market. In Paris, the Battice, Belgium-based company launched HiPer-tex W3030 high performance roving, a product specifically developed and engineered for polyester and vinyl ester resin systems and for resin infusion processes.
3B claims that HiPer-tex W3030 allows OEMs to manufacture longer and lighter blades for the larger multi-megawatt wind turbines located both onshore and offshore.
According to 3B, the new HiPer-tex W3030 roving offers up to 10 percent weight saving for the same design and length when compared to rotor blades manufactured with traditional E-glass. In addition, the turbine blade span can be lengthened by up to 6 percent while still maintaining the same weight, increasing energy output by up to 12 percent, says 3B.
Axson Technologies also showed an innovation it believes will appeal to the wind sector. The French company exhibited what it claims is the only independent heating tooling regulated for prepregs outside the autoclave. This tooling, created in cooperation with Ensam from Lille, France, combines heating, vacuum and sealing.
The rigid section of the tooling, made in 2092 Axson epoxy-infused carbon or metal, provides the part with its geometry. A flexible heating counter-mould, made in Axson SVB20 Silicone, is projected in the exact shape of the part.
Heating the two parts of the tooling enables sandwich parts to be created. Axson says the technique allows large moulds to be used without the need to invest in large dimension autoclaves.
Axson claims it is the only company to have created a system that integrates the heating and the vacuum and sealing system. Patrick Blosse, executive vice president of sales at Axson, said the clever aspect of the tool is that the flexible part is also heated.
“This can replace the autoclave and therefore saves a considerable amount of time and energy,” he said.
Gurit Holding AG also is keenly interested in the wind sector. In Paris it introduced Velinox, a resin system that the company says is ideal for thick laminate sections, such as wind turbine blade spars and roots. The resin system does not react exothermically “in the same ways as a standard epoxy, enabling the cure profile to be modified to eliminate dwell periods, for controlled exotherm,” the company says.
Gurit also launched Renuvo Wet Laminating (WL), a product specifically developed for wind turbine blade manufacturers' in-factory applications. The company says Renuvo will improve the maintenance and repair of today's wind turbine blades, as well as the blade manufacturing process.
Biocomposites also came under the spotlight at JEC as the European Flax and Hemp Confederation launched the book “Flax and Hemp: a natural solution for the composite industry.” The authors claim the book is the first scientific publication on flax and hemp reinforcements as it examines the mechanical properties of flax and hemp used in polymer reinforcement and assesses their major environmental advantages.
A complete version of this story is available at www.europeanplasticsnews.com.